WORKSHOP “Communication and Cooperation”, June 4, 2018 in Milan

June 4, 2018 at SALA ENZO PACI, CSSA, Philosophy Department, University of Milan, Via Festa del Perdono, 7, 20122 Milano

Confirmed Speakers: Abraham Roth (Ohio State University), Glenda Satne (UAH/University of Wollongong), Matteo Bianchin (University of Milano-Bicocca)

This interdisciplinary workshop aims at elucidating various facets of the interrelation between communication and cooperation. Questions include (but are not restricted to): What are the criteria under which communication can be understood as cooperation? What are the functional roles of communication in different kinds of cooperation? To which extent can communication and cooperation facilitate our understanding of reasons? How do breakdowns of communication and communicative skills impact the success of cooperative activities? What do the (social) cognitive and neural foundations of communicative practices and cooperative activities tell us about the interrelation between communication and cooperation? How do communication and cooperation differ among cultures or species?

There are few more slots for talks available. If you would like to attend the workshop actively with giving a talk, please send a 200-word abstract suitable for blind-review to by February 1, 2018.



Abraham Roth (Ohio State University): Reasons at hand and secondhand: communication, testimonial warrant, and joint action  

Much of what we believe is acquired through communication or testimony.  What sort of warrant or reason is there for such belief? One’s account of so-called testimonial warrant often depends on how one conceives of communication.  For example, Humean theories that reduce testimonial warrant to a form of evidence concerning the track record of the speaker will think of communication quite differently from someone who thinks, following Reid, that there is a default entitlement to trust.  The Humean would emphasize the observational element in the communicative interaction, regarding the speaker’s assertion that P at best as part of the evidence for believing P.  The Reidian, in contrast, would think of testimony as offering a more direct route into the mind of the hearer.  Correspondingly, the epistemic status of testimonial belief would, on one version of the Reid inspired view, hinge on the function of communication to transmit the truth reliably.  This paper will survey several characterizations of communicative interaction and assess the corresponding epistemology afforded by each.  The focus will then turn to communicative interaction in the context of joint or shared agency.  In a broad sense, almost any communication might count as joint agency.  But a specific form of joint agency will, I hope, suggest the possibility of a distinctive form of warrant – one that not only secures belief, but also entitles the hearer to the speaker’s reasons for belief.

Glenda Satne (UAH/University of Wollongong): Communication and Shared Intentionality

There are many different forms of joint action and shared activity. While some of these require little communication and exchange between participants, communication can make joint action smother and help avoid misunderstandings. But the links between communication and joint action run deeper. Communication itself can be seen as a form of human collaborative activity. A tradition springing from the works of Grice (1957, 1975), and further elaborated by Sperber and Wilson (1996), Clark (1996) and Tomasello (2008), seeks to illuminate the nature of communication as a special form of shared intentional activity by describing the set of special intentional and inferential processes that are characteristic of such form of exchange. Furthermore, communication can be seen as a root form of collaborative activity, one that provides the platform for more sophisticated forms of shared activity as those dependent on sharing norms, instructions or joint practical reasoning.  Thus, the ability to engage in simple forms of communication can be thought to be prior in development compared to other abilities for shared activity. In this talk, I explore the social infrastructure of human communication understood as a root form of shared intentional activity. I argue based both on conceptual and empirical considerations, that the traditional view championed by Grice and others is not suited for this task. I present an alternative inspired by recent philosophical debates on the role of the second person that challenge the priority that “third-personal” views, based on observation, inference and theory, have had in shaping our views about the topic.

Matteo Bianchin (University of Milano-Bicocca): Agent-neutral roles and agent-neutral reasons: how does social cognition shape the normative infrastructure of cooperation?

It has been recently argued that agent neutral reasons can be traced back to the understanding of agent neutral roles connected with joint action and group agency. In this paper, I suggest that things are more nuanced. While understanding agent neutral roles is required by joint actions and group agency, joint intentions and more generally group reasons do not per se provide agents with reasons that are agent-neutral. On any reading they involve a pro-nominal back-reference to the agent and thus provide agents with agent-relative reasons at best. I will contend, however, that the development of mature socio-cognitive capacities connected with a representational theory of mind and involved in complex forms of cooperation is essential for forming agent-neutral reasons. Drawing on a broad distinction between minimal and complex collective action and on a dual-system account of mindreading, I will argue in particular that reasons for action emerge in this context that go beyond group reasons. Thus, while agent-neutral reasons and our capacity to access them cannot be traced back straightaway to joint action and group agency, they can still be taken to emerge from the psychological infrastructure of cooperation as social cognition develops along the line suggested.